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It’s fanciful to think everybody on Earth is watching the NRL

Anyhoo, onwards! If you need me for any late storm of nasty emails and tweets, I will be in my trailer.

300 MILLION’S A CROWD

Still, as to the blaring headline bouncing about on social media on Thursday evening about the NRL being broadcast to “300 million people” around the globe, it was nothing if not amusing. Visions came of people in Siberia huddled around the TV before exploding in cheers as Michael Jennings slammed the ball down by the posts; even as they danced an Irish jig in Dublin, and briefly stopped rioting in America as Parramatta lined up for the shot at goal.

And of course all of that must have paled into insignificance compared to the cheering at NRL headquarters, what with a global audience 100 times bigger than the domestic audience for an NRL grand final. So why wouldn’t you? But look, actually, no.

Waqa Blake celebrates his try for the Eels against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.

Waqa Blake celebrates his try for the Eels against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.Credit:Getty

There was no doubt a bump of interest globally in NRL given how sports-starved the masses have been. But an increase by 100 times? I thought that seemed a tad unlikely, so actually read beyond the headlines. The source was an unnamed person from TV, who said ‘‘Around 80m to 90m people would have access to the games in America and Europe, maybe more. From that you have to ask yourself how many would watch it … I would imagine around 30m to 40m people would watch each game for longer than 15 minutes.”

So, according to this unnamed source, a third to a half of those with access actually watched it, even though it was the middle of the night in America, and morning in Europe. I call – what’s that word again? – bullshit.

FOX STILL IN THE BOX

NRL back on deck, AFL in a fortnight, rugby in a month or two. And the A-League? A piece by Michael Lynch and Vince Rugari in the Herald on Thursday highlighted just how grim things are, with ‘‘Fox Sports only agreeing to broadcast the final rounds of the season if Football Federation Australia accepts a dramatic reduction in broadcast rights fees for the next three years.’’

And it really is dramatic, with the piece noting ‘‘Fox is insisting that its $57.6m-a-year rights deal is slashed by what soccer sources indicate could be between 50 and 70 per cent for the remaining three years of its six-year deal.’’ That would mean Fox Sports might be offering between $17m and $29m.

It prompted the well-connected Australian football figure Bonita Mersiades to write a heartfelt piece for footballtoday.com.au saying: ‘‘My understanding is what’s on offer from Fox Sports is much smaller than that, and is more likely around $10m. But regardless of whether it’s $10m or $29m, the FFA and the A-League chairmen should do one thing today: be bold and just walk away. This relationship is over … So let’s walk away. Let’s explore suggestions such as the one made by The Golden Generation for a ‘Netflix’-style FFA TV and put our game into the hands of every single person who plays it, coaches it, referees it, volunteers for it and simply just loves watching it.’’

The A-League is due to complete the season by the end of August.

The A-League is due to complete the season by the end of August.Credit:AAP

A noble sentiment, Ms Mersiades. And it may even be one that rugby is forced to look at, if Fox Sports also turns away from it.

In the end, though, watch this space. In the immediate post-pause world, everyone has to nut out what to cut out or die miserably, and there seems a universal trend among sports broadcasters across the world that if they keep paying what they were paying pre-Plague they will go broke. My suspicion is FFA understands that and, in the absence of serious alternatives for hard cash short of Frank Lowy II, will have little choice but to take what money there is.

BORN TO RUN

TFF has written before of the glory of Olsen Filipaina, one of the great characters of rugby league in the 1980s. The Polynesian knockabout knock-’em-over Tiger centre was famous for frequently finishing a shift as a garbo at dawn, only to tear the opposition apart at Leichhardt Oval in the afternoon.

Later in his career, when he had fallen to reserve grade, he would then turn out for the Kiwi Test team, and tear apart the Kangaroos. A biography of Filipaina, written by Patrick Skene was released this week, and contains an anecdote about his first training session with Balmain, 5 January 1980, a stinking hot summer’s day like mother used to make. First up, a 10 km run around Leichhardt Bay.

“It broke me,” Filipaina recounts. All we did was play touch football and ball work in New Zealand; no one trains that hard. In Australia you have to be a long-distance runner as well as a footballer.”

He was not the only one struggling.

“While we were running, a friend of Larry Corowa’s drove his car up to us and all the boys jumped in and there was no room for me. They drove back to the Tigers and I had to finish the run and they all splashed themselves with water to make it look like they were sweating. I had the biggest throw-up ever, three or four times.”

So shattered was he by the experience that the next day found him sitting on the steps of the Balmain Leagues Club, pleading with management. “Look, I want to go home; no one trains this hard to play league.”

“But we’ve already paid you your money!”’

In desperation, Olsen called his mother, who convinced him to stay, and he went on to live happily ever after. For what do you think the great man is doing these days? Why none other than living in Sydney, and being our fair city’s longest-serving garbo!

WHAT THEY SAID

Roger Federer to Alan Jones in a pre-recorded fare-thee-well call on 2GB: “Alan, it’s Roger here. I wanted to wish you all the very best for what’s to come, and many congratulations on an amazing 35-year career in the

media business. Take care and all the best.”

NY Times Tennis writer Ben Rothenberg: “I’d never heard of Alan Jones, but this is an impressive bit of internet scrubbing on Federer’s behalf after he’d made a retirement video message for a guy who seems to be a sort of Australian Rush Limbaugh, roughly.” Distinctly odd. Jones’s and Federer’s values could not be further apart.

Jeff Kennett on if he’s watching the return of rugby league: “I have very rarely watched it anyway, why would I change a pattern? Boring, boring game. Doesn’t interest me at all. I would rather do some underwater knitting.”

Peter V’landys on offering the broadcasters a discount: “If you’re in a partnership with somebody and they are making significant losses out of you, what are you going to do – send them broke?”

Geelong President Colin Carter unhappy with Eddie McGuire commenting on Geelong business: “Do you want a polite answer or the impolite answer from me or both. The polite answer is I’m disappointed Eddie raises this in a public forum and I can only imagine how he would react if I questioned publicly how Collingwood was handling an issue with one of its players. My less polite answer is it’s none of his business.”

Eddie McGuire will be back in Nine's footy line-up in 2020.

Eddie McGuire will be back in Nine’s footy line-up in 2020.Credit:Getty Images

Carter added he’s expecting McGuire to ring him and say sorry:“It’s one of the examples where his roles in media and as a club president get hopelessly conflicted. Eddie is a decent guy and I’m sure that he will phone and apologise.”

Eddie, off a short run: “Why would I apologise? I would say in my time in the game that Colin going straight from the AFL Commission onto the Geelong board and becoming the president of Geelong was the biggest conflict of interest that I’d seen … but no one writes that because there’s no clickbait involved. He had over 15 years of understanding what the AFL’s strategies were, he had access to every club’s business plans, all that sort of stuff.”

Craig Ehlo, victim of Michael Jordan’s The Shot that kickstarted the Bulls: “I guess the shot was iconic, because it kind of propelled Chicago to that next level for them. If he misses that shot, I think the team I had in Cleveland could’ve easily won three championship like Chicago did. But it definitely gave them the boost they needed to get by and go to that next level.” Et si ma tante en’avait, on l’appellerait mon oncle …

Michael Jordan celebrates the Bulls' win over the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals in Chicago in June 1992.

Michael Jordan celebrates the Bulls’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals in Chicago in June 1992.Credit:AP

John Coates on the 2021 Olympic Games: “The Games can only happen in 2021. We can’t postpone it again and we have to assume that there won’t be a vaccine or, if there is a vaccine, it won’t be sufficient to share around the world.”

V’Landys on wanting crowds to return: “We’re on the moon, we’re looking for Mars now.”

Michael Cheika on his time as Wallabies coach: “In a footy team there can only be one boss, that’s all there is to it. I should have left because that shows they didn’t trust me anymore. But I loved Australian rugby and I thought I could do it, I believed I could get the players together and I didn’t want to let the players and the supporters down. I compromised myself in that way.”

Canberra Raider John Bateman on wanting more money: “When I’m 45 and struggling to stand up, or trying to put my daughter through university, no one is going to ring me and say ‘You know that extra few hundred grand you were hoping to get? We’ve got it for you now’.”

Embattled Cronulla star Bronson Xerri.

Embattled Cronulla star Bronson Xerri.Credit:NRL Photos

Cronulla winger Bronson Xerri, 19, on having tested positive to a bewildering array of performance-enhancing steroids: “I’m devastated but I’m bound by the system so there is not much more I can say at this stage.” That is one approach. The other is to open up entirely, name and shame who gave you the juice, and then throw yourself on the mercy of the court.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Buddy Franklin: Looks likely to miss half the remaining season, with a bad hamstring tear.

The Greenway Women’s first-grade baseball: After the Grand Final of the NSW Womens Baseball League competition was first washed out, and then called off because of the ’Rona, they have been declared winners – their fifth in a row.

Ashley Cooper at the Australian Open in 1958.

Ashley Cooper at the Australian Open in 1958.Credit:Herald Archive

Parramatta Eels: Start their season with three consecutive wins, the first time they have accomplished such a start since 1993.

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Daniel Abt: Audi Formula E driver has been disqualified and ordered to pay 10,000 Euros to charity for getting a professional gamer to compete under his name in an official e-sports race.

RIP Mark McInnes. The well-known rugby figure from Canberra – who toured with the Wallabies through France in 1989, and was a very good man – passed away this week, after a long-ish illness. Nice bloke and a white-line demon – one, whose personality changed, the instant he crossed the stripe. Very intense. Good man, gone too soon.

RIP John Francis Healy OAM. The legend of Joeys rugby for over four decades, a Parramatta man, passed away this week. Well done oh good and noble servant of the game.

RIP Ashley Cooper. The champion Australian tennis player of the 1950s passed away. He won three grand slam titles in 1957 and lost the French in the semi after winning the first two sets. A little surprising, with that impressive resume, he wasn’t better known?

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